SAO PAULO, April 29, 2012—Driving a very competitive ABC Supply Dallara/Honda, Mike Conway battled back from two accidents in the early stages of the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 only to be taken out with eight laps to go while vying for sixth place!
Conway started seventh and fought his way into fifth before the teams started making their first pit stops. Ryan Briscoe brought out the first caution for a single car accident in Turn 10 on lap 23. On the restart, as cars dove into Turn 1, Conway hit third place Dario Franchitti hard enough to spin him around and take himself out in the process. The incident was reviewed by Race Control and Conway was not penalized.
Both drivers were able to continue after pitting -- Conway’s crew had to replace the front wing nose assembly on the ABC Supply car. On the next restart, an accident in the back of the pack but in front of Conway forced him to slow and stop to avoid hitting anyone as the track was blocked. He then pitted for tires and fuel. Franchitti, however, was far enough behind the accident to miss it entirely; he gained seven positions when the cars ahead of him pitted for tires and fuel.
Despite the early setbacks, Conway continued to fight and by lap 58, he was back in the top 10! The race’s fourth full course caution came out on lap 63 for Josef Newgarden’s single car accident in Turn 6. It was on the next restart that Conway’s charge from the back came to an abrupt stop. He was fighting with James Hinchcliffe as the cars funneled through the Turn 1 chicane. Conway didn’t make it and neither did these cars behind him: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ana Beatriz, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and James Jakes. Moreover, Conway was the last car to be restarted by the safety team, causing him to be two laps down to the leaders. He finished 19th and dropped to 18th in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get the result,” Conway said. “The restarts were a bit crazy. We could have had a good result if it hadn’t been for that last restart. I was on the outside of a car and he gave me no room on the outside so I ended up clipping the wall. Disappointing because I gave him room on the first part and he gave me no room on the second part so I had nowhere to go. The last few laps I was running with a damaged car so we were just driving to finish [rear wishbone was bent and there was front wing damage]. Overall, though we definitely improved the car from Long Beach and the pit stops were pretty good all day so we’ll take what we learned this weekend, move on and get things better.”
A valiant effort that went for naught?
Not so according to Team Director Larry Foyt: “We’re trying to take all the positives out of this weekend because there were a lot of positives even though it was a disappointing results day and points day for the championship. We learned a lot--we gained on a bunch of things to make us fast on the alternate tires which we’d been struggling on. So there were a lot of good things: we were really competitive, Mike drove a great race, and the pit crew performed well. We just got caught up in these tight street courses which can happen. The breaks didn’t fall our way as far as that goes.”
Will Power won his third straight race in Sao Paulo, and second straight one from the pole position. Second through sixth were Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato (third place a career best for him), Helio Castroneves, Franchitti and Hinchcliffe.
Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins on Saturday, May 12th but A.J. Foyt’s team will be there on May 10th for the Rookie Orientation program with rookie Wade Cunningham who will be making his Indy 500 debut in the No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. Conway and Cunningham also plan to participate in the IndyCar Open Test at Texas Motor Speedway on May 7th.